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Little-Big Plays: Philadelphia at Carolina Week 7

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Highlighting the little plays that made all the difference between winning and losing in Carolina's 27-16 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Little-big plays are the plays that may not stand out in the box score, but go a long way to winning – or losing –a game. Little-big plays extend drives that lead to scores, turn field goals into touchdowns, or flip field position.

On the other hand, negative little-big plays can abruptly end drives and take points off the board.

Here are the little-big plays that helped the Carolina Panthers beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7 of the 2015 NFL season.

Positive plays from Panther players are marked with a plus-sign and negative plays with a minus-sign, with the players' cumulative season totals for each type of play listed by his name. For example, if on the year Cam Newton has posted six positive little-big plays and three negative plays, it would show (+6, -3).

1st Quarter

10:47 – Panthers 0, Eagles 0. CAR ball 2nd-and-1 on CAR 37. The Panthers defense forced an Eagles punt on the game’s first drive. On Carolina’s second play from scrimmage, Jonathan Stewart exploded for a 36-yard gain thanks to great blocks by Trai Turner (+1, -1), Andrew Norwell (+4), and Greg Olsen (+3). The big run set up an eventual Mike Tolbert touchdown and a 7-0 Panther lead.

9:24 – Panthers 7, Eagles 0. PHI ball 1st-and-10 on PHI 20. Star Lotulelei (+2) pressured Sam Bradford and forced the Eagles QB to rush his throw. The pass was behind Jordan Matthews, and Colin Jones picked it off at the Philadelphia 21, setting Carolina up in great field position. Jones gets credit for the pick, but Star made the play.

9:15 – Panthers 7, Eagles 0. CAR ball 1st-and-10 on PHI 21. On the very next play, Ted Ginn (+2, -3) couldn’t secure a perfect pass at the five yard line, and Nolan Carroll wrestled the ball away for a controversial interception. Ginn's inability to keep possession of the ball took points off the board for what would have been a big early lead for the Panthers.

5:37 – Panthers 7, Eagles 0. PHI ball 2nd-and-9 on CAR 42. After Carroll’s interception, the Eagles moved the ball across the 50 and were nearing field goal range. But Kawann Short (+4, -1) sacked Sam Bradford for a seven yard loss, forcing a 3rd-and-16 followed by an Eagles punt. Short’s sack was key in ending a sustained Eagles drive.

1:37 – Panthers 7, Eagles 0. CAR ball 2nd-and-7 on PHI 47. After an Eagles punt, the Panthers drove past midfield. But on 2nd-and-6 Jonathan Stewart (-1) completely whiffed on his block on a blitzing Mychal Kendricks who sacked Cam Newton for a seven yard loss. Then, on 3rd-and-14, Newton (+8, -5) overthrew a wide open Ted Ginn for what would have been an easy first down, forcing a Panthers punt instead of a fresh set of downs in field goal range.

2nd Quarter

6:55– Panthers 7, Eagles 0. PHI ball 1st-and-15 on PHI 38. DeMarco Murray took a simple handoff off left tackle with good blocking. Charles Tillman (+1, -3), who was unblocked, was responsible to contain the edge, but Tillman took a bad angle and let Murray get to the outside. Murray took the ball 22 yards as the key play on a drive that ended with a 52-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal, cutting the Panthers lead to 7-3.

5:03 – Panthers 7, Eagles 3. CAR ball 2nd-and-1 on CAR 49. Mike Shula (+2 -2) dialed up a beautiful trick play on a Ted Ginn reverse. Ryan Kalil (+2, -3), Mike Tolbert (+1), and Greg Olsen (+4) all made excellent downfield blocks, allowing the speedy Ginn to streak 43 yards before being shoved out at the eight yard line. Two plays later, Cam Newton scored on a run play for a 14-3 Panthers lead.

2:29 – Panthers 14, Eagles 3. PHI ball 3rd-and-6 on PHI 24. On third down, Sam Bradford threw a swing pass to Darren Sproles in in the left flat. Thomas Davis (+4, -2) broke as the ball was thrown and was suddenly one-on-one in open space with one of the quickest, slickest, most nimble runners in the NFL. But Davis dropped Sproles for a one yard loss, forcing an Eagles punt. This was a clutch play by Davis. Some linebackers don’t even get a hand on Darren Sproles in open space, but TD made the play to end the Eagles drive.

1:29 – Panthers 14, Eagles 3. CAR ball 1st-and-10 on CAR 42. Looking for a score to close the half, Cam Newton connected with Philly Brown down the sideline for a 14-yard gain, putting Carolina near field goal range. But Brown (-1) stepped out of bounds on his route and was flagged for illegal touching and a five yard penalty. Two plays later, a scrambling Cam Newton (+8, -6) was intercepted by Byron Maxwell trying to force a pass to Fozzy Whitaker. Instead of Carolina marching for a late score, Philly was now suddenly in scoring position.

:22 – Panthers 14, Eagles 3. PHI ball 2nd-and-10 on CAR 11. Jordan Matthews made a catch in the back of the end zone but only got one foot down as Bene Benwikere (+1, -1) pushed Matthews out of bounds. Matthews was inches away from a touchdown.

:14 – Panthers 14, Eagles 3. PHI ball 3rd-and-10 on CAR 11. Josh Norman made a leaping, fully extended deflection of a certain touchdown pass to Zach Ertz. Norman (+5) is the hottest corner in the NFL. Philadelphia was forced to settle for a field goal and a 14-6 halftime deficit.

3rd Quarter

12:55 – Panthers 14, Eagles 6. CAR ball 1st-and-10 on PHI 33. Jonathan Stewart (+1, -1) made a great block on a blitzing defensive back, giving Cam Newton time to hit Greg Olsen for a 28-yard gain to the five yard line. This little-big play set up Mike Tolbert for a touchdown two plays later, and a 21-6 Panthers lead.

8:52 – Panthers 21, Eagles 13. CAR ball 3rd-and-5 on CAR 25. Following a Ryan Matthews 63-yard touchdown run for the Eagles, Cam Newton (+8, -7) overthrew a wide open Devin Funchess on third down and the ball was intercepted by Byron Maxwell at the Carolina 40. A completion to Funchess would have extended the drive, but instead the ball went to Philadelphia who converted with a 24-yard field goal, narrowing the score to 21-16.

1:48 – Panthers 21, Eagles 16. CAR ball 3rd-and-4 on PHI 46. Facing third down, Mike Remmers (+1, -2) got steamrolled by a Brandon Graham bull rush, and Ed Dickson (+2, -2) got beat by Vinny Curry. Cam Newton faced immediate pressure and had to just throw the ball away, forcing a Panthers punt.

4th Quarter

8:24 – Panthers 24, Eagles 16. PHI ball 1st-and-10 on PHI 32. After a Panthers field goal, Sam Bradford dropped back to pass. Kawann Short (+5, -1) beat Alan Barber for a nine yard sack, forcing a 2nd-and-19. The Eagles were eventually forced to punt after Short’s sack blew up their series.

3:23 – Panthers 24, Eagles 16. CAR ball 3rd-and-1 on CAR 49. Mike Shula (+2, -3) made one of the most baffling decisions of the season. Needing to convert a key 3rd-and-1, Shula could choose between giving the ball to a dominant Jonathan Stewart, punishing Mike Tolbert, or Cam Newton, who is almost unstoppable in these situations. But instead, Shula pulled Stewart for rookie Cameron Artis-Payne and gave CAP his first and only carry of the game. Artis-Payne’s carry went nowhere and the Panthers were forced to punt. Highly questionable call by Shula, to put it kindly.

3:12 – Panthers 24, Eagles 16. PHI ball 1st-and-10 on PHI 11. The Eagles needed a touchdown and two-point conversion late in the game, and had nearly 90 yards to go. On first down Jared Allen (+1) made his biggest play as a Panther by sacking Sam Bradford for a six yard loss, dropping him at the five yard line.

3:01 – Panthers 24, Eagles 16. PHI ball 3rd-and-16 on PHI 5. On third and long, the Panthers were in position to potentially put the game away. Kony Ealy (+2, -3) hit Sam Bradford’s arm on a short pass over the middle to Jordan Matthews, making the wobbly pass look like a deflection. Luke Kuechly (-1) was covering Matthews and drilled him before the pass arrived, presumably because he thought the pass was deflected, thus allowing contact. The fluttering pass was several yards short of Matthews and appeared to be uncatchable, but Kuechly was flagged for pass interference. Instead of 4th-and-16 from their own five yard line, the Eagles got a new set of downs to try to tie the game. Questionable call by the refs, but questionable decision by Kuechly to even put the refs in the position to have to make a call.

2:55– Panthers 24, Eagles 16. PHI ball 1st-and-10 on PHI 15. Jared Allen strikes again! Allen (+2) sacked Sam Bradford for a six yard loss to the Philly nine yard line. The Eagles were never able to recover from the sack and failed to convert on fourth and long three plays later, giving the ball back to the Panthers to put the game away.

:23 – Panthers 24, Eagles 16. CAR ball 4th-and-5 on PHI 11.The Panthers were unable to run out the clock and were forced to make a decision: either kick the short field goal, or run a play on fourth to burn time and try to convert a first down. Broadcasters Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth both said they would not risk kicking the field goal because of a potential blocked kick returned for a touchdown. The Panthers went for the field goal and sure enough, Bryan Braman timed the snap, jumped over the Panthers offensive line, and came close to blocking the field goal. To quote Chirs Collinsworth after the play, "They jumped right over the top of it but just didn’t block the kick! Oh my gosh! They pulled it off but just didn’t get the block. That was a little dicey right there if you are a Carolina Panthers fan."

Chris, we’ll take dicey.

We’ll take 6-0.

We’ll take 11-1 over our last 12 games going back to last year, playoffs included.

We’ll keep pounding!